NASA has selected Blue Origin to launch the agency’s Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers (ESCAPADE) mission as part of the agency’s Venture-Class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare (VADR) launch services contract, created to help the growth of commercial launch services in the United States by assigning them low-cost missions with highly flexible and fixed price contracts.
Under the agreement, ESCAPADE will launch in late 2024 onboard Blue Origin’s New Glenn launch vehicle from Space Launch Complex-36 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
After the launch, the mission will take about 11 months to reach Mars where it will spend several months adjusting the orbit before it’s able to capture data.
About the mission
ESCAPADE is a research that will study Mars’ magnetosphere, the magnetized area of space around the planet, using two twin probes, providing simultaneous observations from two different points.
The two spacecraft will help the understanding of how Mars’ magnetosphere interacts with the solar wind and the processes driving its atmospheric escape. This study will give scientists a better idea about space weather and will help to protect astronauts and satellites in Earth’s orbit or while exploring the solar system.
ESCAPADE is part of the Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx) program, an exploration project operated by NASA that builds small, low-cost spacecraft for stand-alone planetary missions. These spacecraft are launched as secondary payloads during other major missions.
About Blue Origin
Blue Origin is an American private space company founded in 2000 by Jeff Bezos, the founder and executive chairman of Amazon.
It aims to make access to space cheaper and more reliable through reusable launch vehicles. The company develops orbital technology, rocket-powered vertical takeoff, and vertical landing vehicles for access to suborbital and orbital space.
Initially focused on suborbital spaceflight, the company developed its New Shepard vehicle which can carry research payloads and tourists on short, microgravity trips to the edge of space and back. On July 20, 2021, it performed its first 10-minute touristic crewed trip into space.
Blue Origin is also developing New Glenn, an orbital launch vehicle with a reusable first stage designed to be flown on at least 25 missions. The name New Glenn is a tribute to NASA astronaut John Glenn, who became the first American to orbit Earth in 1962.
New Glenn is also the company’s answer to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy and other company’s heavy-lift vehicles.
Other projects are the Blue Moon lander, a crew-carrying lunar lander, and a commercial space station called Orbital Reef (in partnership with Sierra Space).